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of their query. Despite the regime’s

policy of Holocaust denial and una-

bashed anti-Zionism, it has failed to

sever the bond between a people and

its homeland, even with so much at

stake. Religiously, the Iranian Jews

have prospered despite living under

Sharia law. Ironically, it may have

contributed to their observance, as

intermarriage is punishable by death

and religion is hailed as the one

absolute they may keep to them-

selves and each other.

As his wife is clearing dishes,

Yoram presents me with a gift: a

large Jewish prayer book in

Hebrew and Farsi, with scribbled

writing across the back page.

“To our friend Channa Hernroth-

Rothstein. May all your prayers be

answered and may you come back

to us soon.”

I choke up and neither of us says

much, but we understand each

other perfectly, and as I say my

goodbyes, I pray to return safely

one day and, if nothing else, that

prayer will be heard and answered.

A

s I leave the Haroonian family

home it hits me: The over-

whelming mix of joy and sadness,

of being in Tehran on Shabbat with

my people, a scene so familiar and

foreign all at once. To a certain

degree, the Jews of Iran enjoy

greater freedom than I, a European

Jew, have ever known. Their syna-

gogues are unguarded, their Jewish

identity on proud display, and their

religious life lauded and encour-

aged while mine is increasingly

outlawed and oppressed. But their

freedom exists inside a large and

impenetrable prison, their homoge-

nous traditional orthodoxy that I

long for back home is only possible

in a place where the alternatives are

deemed illegal.

But most of all, I am struck by

their longing for Israel.

My connection to Israel is a

backbone, an integral part of my

identity as a Jew. Being in Iran

showed me what it would be like to

live without it. How completely

untethered and unsafe I would feel.

On my continent, people are flee-

ing their homes because they are

Jewish, their Jewish identity mak-

ing it unsafe for them to stay. What

if there was no Israel to come

home to? What if we were left

alone, like shards of crystal, dis-

persed in the Diaspora? How

would we act? What would we be?

What would we have to do in order

to please our master?

I leave Iran with a heavy heart,

knowing I may never return to see

the people who became family in

an instant, because they always

were. I worry what will become of

them once I board that plane; if I

caused them harm by even coming.

Iran was not what I thought it

would be, and Jewish life there is

not as hellish as I thought, but in

many ways it was worse and more

sinister than I could ever imagine.

The Jews of Iran are not persecut-

ed, but they are very far from free.

They live in a gilded cage with

freedoms and rights that can be

taken away at the behest of their

master without notice or reason.

This article originally appeared

in

The Tower,

the magazine of The

Israel Project.

JEWISH WORLD • OCT. 28-NOV. 3, 2016 11

Jews

continued from page 9

But despite their proud ancestry,

the Jews of Iran remain isolated and

largely unknown to and undiscovered

by the rest of the world.

But instead of Divine justice

descending as a bolt of lightning,

Divine compassion emerges to

absorb the lethal voltage. Holding

off Divine justice is saying we

always have another chance to bet-

ter ourselves, to redeem the tragedy,

to try again. And is this not what

“beginnings” are all about?

True repentance means carving

out a new beginning for oneself.

Beginnings, therefore, go hand in

hand with Divine compassion, and

Divine faith in the human person-

ality to recreate oneself and to

forge a new destiny. The sinner

isn’t shut out forever; he is always

given another opportunity through

repentance, another possibility of

recreating for himself and his

immediate environment, a new

beginning.

Thus, in the Torah’s opening

word,

Bereshit

(“beginning”), we

find not only the theme of the

Torah, but of the entirety of exis-

tence: God created an imperfect

and sometimes unjust world to

allow the possibility of change and

growth. If change weren’t possible,

if human behavior were as fixed as

that of all other mammals, then

there would be no need for, and no

uniqueness within, human beings.

The Glory of God and humanity is

to be found in the opening phrase of

the Bible: “God created begin-

nings” — new opportunities and

manifold reawakenings.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shlomo Riskin is the chief rabbi

in Efrat, Israel.

Growth

continued from page 7

True repentance

means carving

out a new

beginning for

oneself.

D

I

N

APOLI

R

ECEIVES

V

ETERANS

A

WARD

NYS Comptroller Thomas P.

DiNapoli will be honored for his

continued advocacy on behalf of

NYS veterans at the annual gala

dinner at the Museum of American

Armor, Old Bethpage Restoration,

on November 16. At the same time

former NYPD police commissioner

and U.S. Marine veteran Ray Kelly

will receive the museum’s Military

Heritage Award.

“Across the country and in our

state, and from my own family’s

experience, I know that we will for-

ever be indebted to our veterans for

their service and sacrifices. I will

continue to support our military and

their families as well as the pro-

grams that help them return to civil-

ian life,” said DiNapoli.

“I accept this honor with the

understanding that I am represent-

ing the hundreds of thousands of

Americans who served in Vietnam

during the conflict and those men

and women who continue to serve

in our military today,” said Kelly.

One of the co-chairs of the din-

ner, former U.S. Senator Alfonse

D’Amato, said about the two hon-

orees who are committed to the

welfare of veterans, “…we are

reminded just how effectively these

two men have ‘led from the front’

on this issue.” Visit the website at

museumofamericanarmor.org

.

WJC D

ELEGATION TO THE

V

ATICAN

A delegation of the World Jewish

Congress (WJC), led by its president

Ronald S. Lauder, recently met with

Pope Francis at the Vatican. The pope

told the delegation that it was impor-

tant that Christians and Jews speak

out against brutality in the world.

“We should go on a joint journey

together to make the world more

secure. We need to speak out for

peace.” Pope Francis also spoke

about the importance of integrating

migrants into their new surroundings.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

told the pope, “We Jews have all

been immigrants. We understand

the situation the immigrants find

themselves in. We pray for peace.”

L

OCAL

R

ETAILER

W

INS

G

OLD

M

EDAL

A

WARD

Turnpike Comfort Footwear in

Fresh Meadows, Queens, was re-

cently named the winner of a Gold

Medal Service Award for Out-

standing Customer Service by

Footwear Insight

magazine for the

second year in a row. Turnpike

Comfort Footwear achieved its re-

cognition with a perfect score in 24

different criteria of shoe-buying

experiences in an evaluation of 120

stores conducted by a third-party

shopping firm. The editor of

Foot-

wear Insight,

Mark Sullivan, said,

“Customer service is the best way

that independent shoe stores can

win out over bigger stores and

online competitors. It’s also the best

way stores can take care of their

customers and build a loyal follow-

ing.” For more information on

Turnpike Comfort Footwear visit

www.turnpikeshoes.com o

r call

718.454.5870.

C

OMMEMMORATING

K

RISTALLNACHT

A Kristallnacht program com-

memmorating the beginning of the

Holocaust will take place at the

Long Beach City Hall Auditorium

on November 6 at 1 p.m. Rabbi Eli

Goodman will present a Torah scroll

to the community. The scroll was

salvaged from the fires of Kristall-

nacht by 14-year-old Isaac Schwartz

of Hamburg and recently restored.

Among the guest speakers are

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, NY

State Senator Todd Kaminsky,

Nassau County Legislator Denise

Ford, Long Beach President of the

City Council Len Torres, Long

Beach City Manager Jack Schnir-

man and the Hon. Harvey Weisen-

berg. A candlelighting ceremony in

memory of the Holocaust victims

will also take place. For more infor-

mation call Dora Heller, vice presi-

dent of the Holocaust Memorial

Committee of Long Island at

516.526.7218.

A

ROUND THE

J

EWISH

C

OMMUNITY

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder met with Pope Francis at the

Vatican to discuss promoting peace in the world.

Darryll Caraballo of Turnpike Comfort

Footwear with the Gold Medal Service

Award for Outstanding Customer Service.